"Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!"
Warner Brothers (1978)
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
Devo was set for success when they prepared to record their debut album, “Q: Are We Not Men A: We Are Devo!” They had drawn interest from Brian Eno, a demigod in the world of electronic music to this day, and David Bowie, a character who had massive success being nearly as weird as Devo’s music. The band settled with Eno as a producer, but the results were far from the “Whip It” image we have of the band now.
Devo currently exists as a band known for being overly electronic; synths, moogs, keyboards, you name it. Vocalist and band brain trust Mark Mothersbaugh said that Eno drew up many synthesizer lines to be used on the album, but he admitted that the band turned most of them down. It’s tough to tell whether the group would still have such a large fan base had it never embraced electronics fully, but at any rate, the tracks here are largely free from progressive instruments.
The best tracks are the ones that hint at the Devo to come however. “Mongoloid” is the first track on the album with audible synthesizer, and “Gut Feeling” begins with what sounds like a moog soundtrack for a horror film as the backdrop and the guitars work into a chaotic crescendo toward the end.
One thing that is present on this record is Devo’s trademark satire and generally bizarre sense of humor. Songs like “Praying Hands” are strict satire, instructing the listener to “Lay over, play dead, get spiritual minded.” Some songs, like “Jocko Homo” (featuring the now classic anthem “Are we not men? We are Devo” line.) are just bizarre. It’s like watching the “Tim and Eric” show on Adult Swim. You are never quite sure why you’re laughing, but you can’t stop. The album climaxes at its finish with Devo in classic form for “Shrivel Up.”
This album is close to many a Devo fan’s heart, but I would argue it isn’t the band’s best. Later albums would bundle the group’s humor and satire more efficiently, and exercise Mothersbaugh’s hilariously melodramatic voice even more theatrically.
INTERESTING FACT: The album’s art features a mash-up profile of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. The group’s original idea was a picture of pro golfer Chi-Chi Rodriguez.